. That’s the best description of SB 1576. Most of the costly mandates, prohibitions, and new rule-making authority in the bill are aimed at septic systems, even though existing science consistently demonstrates septic systems are the least of the problems associated with nitrogen. Although sponsors of the bill keep testifying in committees that science should come before action, the bill asks only for “estimates” of the size and scope of the septic system problem, along with “estimates” of the nitrogen reduction the proposed fix will accomplish, and “estimates” of the costs. We estimate the multi-billion dollar howitzer will probably kill the gnat, but the algae will live on.
In the meantime, 1000 Friends of Florida is extolling the virtues of SB 1576….the bill that the member organizations obviously had a hand in writing. Perhaps their newly available bumper sticker says more about what they really want to accomplish – “Friends don’t let friends sprawl.” After reading the bill, we have a question. Is the legislation written to fix an insignificant problem caused by septic systems or is it about stopping new homebuilding or forcing people off rural and semi-rural land and into “sustainable” cities surrounded by government-owned conservation land. It’s not a coincidence that these are the same people who gathered signatures for the Constitutional Amendment 1 that will appear on the November ballot. It forces the legislature to set aside $500 million a year to buy more and more conservation land. Next question….who are they going to buy the land from?? You get bonus points if you answered “from private owners.”
Another question….Why is it that nothing in SB 1576 mandates fixing the crumbling sewer infrastructure of our cities? That’s a serious oversight when broken and leaking sewers and lift station failures dump more raw effluent into waterways and ground water than septic systems ever could on their worst days. In fact, in 2010 the DOH Bureau of Onsite Sewage guesstimated that perhaps as few as 100,000 systems state wide, less than ½ of one percent of all systems, might be failing in some fashion or another. Failing septic systems are a drop in the proverbial bucket of total effluent produced by Florida’s 18 million residents and millions of visitors, but the attacks continue. Just a guess, of course, but it seems discussing the much bigger issue of Infrastructure failures does not fit in with the “sustainable cities” agenda of the environmental community. Blaming septic systems does fit.
We are sounding this next alarm for good reason. SB 1576 calls for broad rule-making authority across multiple agencies with no legislative or citizen oversight. This was intentional, designed to bypass the legislature. Lawmakers need to be especially vigilant and make sure that unfettered, inappropriate, and costly rule-making by unelected bureaucrats does not take the place of thoughtful, fiscally sound, and productive policy. Over the past six years, lawmakers and homeowners with septic systems have suffered through the consequences of inappropriate and costly rule-making that legislators did not intend. We don’t need a repeat, but once the rule-making starts, there is little anyone can do to stop it short of repealing the legislation – as happened in 2010/2011 with SB 550’s state-wide inspection mandate. The law was not the problem, it was the Bureau’s rule-making!
SB 1576 goes to the Senate floor on April 30. Contact your Senator or your House of Representatives member and express your opinion. Do so today and tomorrow. If you have contacted them once before, do it again! Please include an e-mail to Senate President Don Gaetz (firstname.lastname@example.org) and to House Speaker, Representative Will Weatherford (email@example.com). You can use the Sludge Report’s “contact your legislator” tab to e-mail your elected officials.
Reprinted with Permission
Last Week To Address the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act
On Friday, the latest version of The Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection was posted at www.flsenate.gov along with an analysis of the bill.
The bill is scheduled to be heard by the entire Senate on Wednesday, April 30.
While much improved, the bill continues to put property owners in a very vulnerable position. Following is the CPR Bill Analysis:
The Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act
Analysis of CS/CS/CS/SB 1576
The issue of protecting and preserving water in Florida must be addressed on two levels: water quantity and water quality. This bill addresses one of those issues: water quality.
The best vehicle for addresses the water quality issue is the Department of Environmental Protection’s Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) process. It allows local stakeholders to address any and all potential pollution sources and remediate them in a site-specific manner. Only a lack of funding limits its speed and progress.
Problems with CS/CS/CS/SB 1576
After substantial, last minute changes in last Wednesday’s Senate Appropriations Committee, this bill still has the following problems which renders it ineffective in achieving springs and aquifer protection.
The bill requires no scientific basis to identify potential pollution sources. In fact, in 24 pages of language, the words “science,” “scientific basis,” or “scientific evidence,” do not appear once. This begs the question: how does one know if there is a problem without any objective, scientific facts or data? Regardless of which potential sources are being considered as possible polluters (septic systems, exfiltration from sewer lines, fertilizer, etc.), there must be scientific evidence to document/confirm a source of pollution and the extent of its contribution. Despite this simple logic, the bill (line 424) calls for nothing more than “the estimated nutrient loading of the onsite sewage treatment and disposal system or systems.” On page 24 of the bill analysis, one of the considerations when prioritizing projects is “the quantity of pollutants the project is estimated to remove…”
Years of study are not needed to achieve scientific data. But, until scientific sampling becomes the foundation for decision making, billions of tax dollars could be spent chasing assumptions, estimates and computer models.
The bill does not provide sufficient funding for its requirements.Until last week’s Appropriations Committee, the bill called for approximately $370M of funding every year for projects. Saturday’s conference committee settled on $30M to be appropriated in the current budget. Future projects will need to be funded once again every year.
When legislators create mandated, artificial or theoretical deadlines and requirements yet, have no realistic, agreed upon plans among stakeholders for funding, it ignites confusion and fear. Moreover, rulemaking authority is given to multiple agencies with no oversight mechanism, including that of the legislature. Cities and counties begin to question whether or not they will have to increase property taxes to pay for mandated projects. Utility companies wonder if they will need to raise rates or establish surcharges. In the end, however, this puts local property owners in the position of having to comply with mandated dates and pay for mandated projects be it through out-of pocket expenses, increased taxes, or increased utility rates.
Protect and Preserve Florida’s Waters
Florida’s water issues of quantity and quality deserve a well thought through plan. In light of the huge amounts of money that will be needed (estimated to cost billions), mistakes costing money and time must be avoided. A scientific approach to identifying pollution sources and remediating such sources must be utilized. It should be noted that Governor Scott has recommended $55M (the most ever) for springs’ protection in the 2014-2015 budget.
The recipe for success is the BMAP process, the involvement of site specific, sincere stakeholders, a science-based foundation for decision making, and funded local projects. This will allow projects to be well coordinated and synergized to make them most cost effective.
CPR urges you to express your thoughts and concerns to your personal Senator and Representative now. These are the elected officials you have hired to work for you. If they are the kind of officials who listen to their constituents, your opinion can make a huge difference.
To obtain their contact information visit: www.flsenate.gov or www.myfloridahouse.gov.
Founding Father Alexander Hamilton said,
“One great object of government is personal protection and the security of property.”
CPR will be in Tallahassee this last week of the 2014 Legislative Session speaking up for your property rights. Your voice is critical now.
CPR continues to need your help if it is to be an effective voice. This week your help is critical.
Thank you very much.
Dan Peterson, Executive Director